Barbados has not recorded a new case of locally spread COVID-19 in a month, but all of that could be wiped out if the correct protocols are not in place going forward.
And to ensure the island can ramp up its response when necessary, Minister of Health Jeffrey Bostic on Tuesday night moved a resolution to extend the Public Health Emergency until August 31, 2020.
Bostic said he spent most of that day in a Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) executive committee meeting and with the Americas – of which Barbados is a part – emerging as the new epicentre of the virus, every precaution must be taken.
“I think it is kind of ironic that we are seeking the extension today. Today is, I believe, precisely one month since this country has recorded its last positive case in terms of local transmission,” the Minister said, noting there were five positive repatriated cases.
He said coming out of that PAHO meeting, there was an indication that a gap existed between authorities communicating the risks associated with COVID-19 and the interventions required for mitigation against the public perception of those risks.
The extension of the Public Health Emergency, he explained, was the attempt to close that gap here in Barbados.
“And I want to make it very, very clear that yes we have not had a case in about a month, but that should not be taken to mean that there is no longer a problem, there is no longer an international pandemic and we no longer have a public health emergency,” Bostic said.
“We are not operating in a silo and we do not live in a bubble.”
The Minister said of the 9 million confirmed global cases of COVID-19, approximately 50 per cent (almost 4.5 million) were recorded in the Americas. It is also the region for the most new cases and of the 154 000 new cases recorded in a 24-hour period, 90 000 were in the Americas.
Additionally, five of the top ten countries in the world recording COVID-19 infections are in this region. The United States leads the way with 25 per cent or 2.3 million and the list also includes Brazil with 1.2 million or 12 per cent, Peru and Chile both over 250 000 cases and Mexico with 185 000.
Even more worrying is the common border CARICOM member countries Guyana and Suriname share with Brazil, while our source markets the United Kingdom (306 000 cases), Canada and the USA from which our international flights originate, pose a potential health risk.
Bostic said the extension of the public health emergency would allow the Ministry of Health to escalate measures as needed and facilitate the operations of certain areas in response to the pandemic.
This includes retaining the nurses from Cuba and some regulations at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, for example, the co-opting of Blackman and Gollop Primary School and the operation of the Harrison’s Point isolation facility in St Lucy.